This Was The Week That Was For Oklahoma's Natives

Jul 26, 2013

This has been an unusual week with an unusual amount of news stories concerning three tribes in Oklahoma: the Cherokees, the Delawares, the Keetowahs, and one little girl.

Eagle Staff
Credit JoKay Dowell

When the Supreme Court ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) did not apply in all cases, the native world waited for the other shoe to drop.  And it did when the South Carolina Supreme Court directed a Family Court to finalize the adoption of Cherokee Nation member Veronica Brown by a non-native South Carolina couple. Last week the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma filed a petition for a rehearing of the decision allowing the adoption. The Tahlequah-based tribe said Monday that the court's decision was ``troubling.''  The response was a quick and to the point – no rehearing.  One year ago, the South Carolina Supreme Court found that denying the adoption and awarding custody to Dusten Brown was in Veronica’s best interests. Now that same Court reversed that decision and did not provide a hearing for Veronica. Several American Indian groups are also preparing to sue over the decision. The Native American Rights Fund (NARF), the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) released a joint statement saying this judicial action represents a disregard for the civil rights of Veronica Brown. And with no hearing the Family Court is disregarding the legal protections offered any child in an adoption proceeding. To add to the stew, the biological mother, Christy Maldonado on Wednesday sued U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder seeking a declaration that parts of ICWA are unconstitutional because it considers race in determining whom a child lives with.   Indian Times will keep you updated on this situation.

An Oklahoma-based Indian tribe has purchased 87 acres near Lawrence, Kansas but has not yet announced any plans for the land. The Delaware Tribe of Indians said in a news release that it might use the land along the Kansas Turnpike for housing, child care and a medical clinic. A representative of the tribe said in March that the tribe was considering moving its headquarters from Bartlesville, Okla., because of restrictions it faces in Oklahoma. Previously, Indian Times spoke with Delaware Tribal member and consultant Dee Ketchum about those restrictions. Ketchum said, “We could not put any land in trust because the 14 counties the Cherokee Nation claims as their jurisdiction, we could not put land into trust without their authority nor if we started any businesses then we'd have to pay them a tribal tax. So our council on July 2nd, 2012, with our new chief, the council decided enough was enough, after 145 years of fighting with the Cherokee Nations, and relocate to our old reservation lands in Kansas.” The Lawrence Journal-World reported Wednesday a tribal spokesman declined to comment on exactly what the Delaware is going to do with the land. In 2000, the tribe considered building a casino complex in the same area but those plans stalled after strong opposition from the surrounding community.

The Cherokee Nation has filed a request for a federal injunction to prevent the U.S. Department of the Interior from placing land of a rival tribe into trust, a move that would recognize the parcel as Indian land.  The petition filed Tuesday in Muskogee federal court claims the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians is operating an illegal casino on about 2 acres in Tahlequah, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. The Keetoowahs have until July 31 to either stop gaming or have the land placed into trust. The Keetoowahs trace their history to Cherokees who settled in Indian Territory in the 1820s and have fought for decades over the Keetoowah Cherokee Casino. The Bureau of Indian Affairs recently said it would proceed with the Keetoowahs' trust application.

Upcoming native events:

August 2-4, Friday-Sunday: 24th Annual Oklahoma Indian Nations Powwow, Concho Powwow Grounds, Concho, OK.  Summerfest Celebration held in conjunction with the powwow. Gourd Dance, War Dance, Drum Contest, 5K Run, Buffalo Fun Walk, and Hand Game Tournament. For more information call Dara Franklin, 405-476-1134 or 405-422-7545.

August 10, Saturday: Indian Taco Sale. 11:00am–2:30pm.  OK Choctaw Tribal Alliance, 5320 S. Youngs Blvd., Oklahoma City, OK. For more information: 405-681-0869.

August 15-18, Thursday-Sunday: 38th Annual Wichita Tribal Dance, Wichita Tribal Park, Anadarko, OK. For more information: 405-247-2425.

Saturday, Aug 31, 2013, 10:00am - 4:00pm: Join Curator of American Indian Collections, Matt Reed, and the Oklahoma History Center for a beginning moccasin class. The class will be making Plains Hard Sole Moccasins and will receive all necessary supplies. The class is limited to 15 students. For more information on costs and to register call Sarah Dumas, 405-522-0791 or